This week I have been mostly walking around in public in my bra and pants, says Elaine Kingett. You might call it a bikini but it felt like underwear to me and, what exactly is the difference in reality? Plus, I could do with some of lingerie’s construction values these days. Arriving in the heat and 100 watt light of Crete from the grey and grime of a London summer, where socks and sheepskin slippers were worn indoors, I spent the first 24 hours over-dressed and fearful of flashing any skin. I’m not a woman who wears shorts and vests in the city and the idea of exposing myself was scary. Would ‘they’ think I was an old lady in a young girl’s bikini, given that it’s the same style black triangle top and side-tied bottoms that I’ve worn for years? Albeit that this one is a more upmarket Boden version with wonderfully preformed cups?
I’ve bought new swimsuits every year in a fit of propriety: I never wear them. And make-up? Did I? Didn’t I? Waterproof eye stuff seemed the sensible solution, I’d test-run it in the shower. And sun tan lotion, in-house application or after swim on the beach and risk looking like a veteran porn star with a penchant for single cream? Hair? Half-a lemon to juice on the front, like we used to do in the olden days to bleach it up? In the olden days, I laid on the beach in the South of France topless, smothered in baby oil and smoked Benson’s and read Jackie Collins. In the olden days, we had fold-out, triangular, foil-lined, cardboard things to stick under our chins to make sure we really crisped up. I’ve had a basal cell skin cancer on my nose removed to prove it. Now, I go to the beach with three different strengths of sun screen, nuts and a bottle of water.
And I grab a parasol and lounger from Lulis the beach boy, ‘Yes, just the one, efharisto’ poli,’ I’m tempted to rent two and hope a random turns up under the other. Years ago, recently widowed, I was haunted by what other couples and families thought of me and my three kids without a dad,’ Bet he’s left her, found a younger model.’ Now I imagine they think, ‘Lucky bugger, on her own.’
Elaine is off on her summer adventure but will be running Write It Down! creative writing courses in Spain, this September. Here’s a bikini feature and swimwear advice from Alyson (for the Guardian) and here are some bikinis: